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Sabrina Ionescu sets NCAA records hours after speaking at Kobe Bryant memorial

Oregon's Sabrina Ionescu drives the ball up court past Stanford's Kiana Williams. Ionescu became the first NCAA player to reach 2,000 points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds hours after speaking at Kobe Bryant's memorial.
(Ben Margot / Associated Press)

Sabrina Ionescu‘s strength inspired her Oregon coaches and teammates all day with the way she courageously spoke at the memorial service for Kobe and Gianna Bryant in Los Angeles in the morning, then flew back to the Bay Area and took the court to lead the Ducks to victory with yet another brilliant performance on both ends.

And did something never done before in college basketball, by a man or a woman.

Ionescu became the first player in NCAA history to reach 2,000 points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds and notched her record 26th career triple-double, too, leading No. 3 Oregon past fourth-ranked Stanford 74-66 on Monday night.

“That one was for him. To do it on 2-24-20 was huge,” Ionescu told ESPN. “We talked about it in the preseason. I can’t put it into words. He’s looking down and proud of me and happy for this moment with my team.”

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Vanessa Bryant, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal were among those who gave heartfelt tributes to Kobe and Gianna Bryant during their public memorial.

Ionescu’s left sneaker featured “Mamba Mentality” written on it along with “Forever 24” as well as a ”24” on the back.

Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry sat on the baseline supporting Ionescu and women’s basketball for the second straight game she played in Northern California after he was in Berkeley with his two daughters Friday night. He also attended the memorial service earlier Monday.

“To be at her age with all that she’s got going on and her connection to Kobe and Gigi and to give a speech in front of 19,000 people all mourning was unbelievable,” Curry told ESPN of Ionescu. “She spoke so well. Now she’s out here representing them, playing her heart out.

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Ionescu hit the milestone on a defensive rebound with 1:47 remaining in the third quarter and finished with 21 points, 12 assists and 12 rebounds in her first triple-double against a top-10 opponent and eighth overall this season to help Oregon (26-2, 15-1 Pac-12) clinch at least a share of its third straight Pac-12 regular-season title.

“I don’t know many people that could have done what she did today,” Graves said. “ I knew this was the way it was going to end tonight for her. I’m glad that it ended in a victory, but I knew that she was going to get that. It’s so fitting that she did it tonight.”

Hall of Fame Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer wasn’t surprised by Ionescu’s toughness despite her difficult day.

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“She’s a player. I didn’t expect anything different than what we saw,“ VanDerveer said.

She now has 2,467 points, 1,041 assists and 1,003 rebounds, having led Oregon to at least 15 conference wins for a third consecutive season. Ionescu shot nine for 19, missing her three three-point attempts. She had plenty of help from Satou Sabally, who scored 27 points on 10-for-17 shooting with four three-pointers.

“When she came back, we were there for her. It wasn’t the easiest day, but she always has our backs so it was our turn to have her back,” Sabally said. “We just lifted her up.”

Ionescu said: “You kind of try and hide some of those emotions. To speak was such an honor for me. I tried to do everything I could to hold it together tonight and my team helped me do that.”


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